The gracefully handled and sympathetically coloured illustrations and watercolours of Henry Towneley Green proved very popular to a Victorian audience keen on whimsical depictions of a simpler life.
Green’s professional life began as a banker, a job he did not find very fulfilling. Indeed, he gave it up to pursue a painterly career. It is unclear whether Green received any arts education, however his brother, Henry Green (1840-1898), was also carving for himself a career in the arts. It could be possible that, alongside what was clearly a penchant for art which ran in the blood, Green would have received some pointers from his brother.
Whatever the case, Green would very quickly cultivate a very successful career for himself through his delicately rendered illustrations and watercolours. These were always noted for being ‘charmingly expressed’ with a ‘rare simplicity of grace.’
Green’s favoured subject was idyllic scenes of a romantic or innocent nature. No heavy themes of war or death passed by his brush, and this suited the tastes of his 19th-century audience. Indeed, such choice of theme was also complimented by Green’s gentle hand in conjuring his whimsical scenes.
A soft diffusion of colour lends a hazy light to each scene, romantic, atmospheric. Children are caught in healthy bloom in their play, young women’s cheeks flush with a rosy hue as suitors make their advances. Green was praised for his ability to bring individuality to each figure. Even in busy scenes of bustling market towns, there is singularity in an old woman’s sentimental smile, a pipe-wielding man’s pensive gaze.
Green was particularly fond of historical scenes, and each is defined by the costume and character. The deep azure of a Georgian gentleman’s overcoat is captured with a crispness which emphasises its expensive fabric and fashioning. Roses bloom with a gentle yet vibrant nature upon a Georgian woman’s dress. There is no mistaking the period by the fashioning of his figures.
Green’s works won him membership to the New Watercolour Society and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. He also exhibited at the Royal Academy on numerous occasions, as well as the Royal Institute and the Society of British Artists. Green often worked for the magazines the ‘Cornhill’ and ‘Once a Week,’ which focussed on discussing matters of artistic and intellectual interest whilst showcasing the best of British illustration. Green would work alongside esteemed figures such as John Everett Millais (1829-1896) in this publication.
Today, a number of his works are held in the Victoria and Albert Museum as well as in the British Museum.
Exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy.
Exhibited at the Society of British Artists.
Became a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.
Became a member of the New Watercolour Society.
Became a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters.
Died in Hampstead, London, Britain. Buried in Hampstead Cemetery.